Question: How can a student go from “All I know is you need to get good grades, and it’s stressful” Lily Hamlett ’20, to “I can not wait for my life at college next year” Natalia Vaquero’18.
Answer: SEM’s college process
On the SEM website, SEM defines itself as “an independent day and boarding high school for college-bound girls.” Last year students from SEM went everywhere from Yale University on the East Coast to Savannah College of Art and Design in the South to California Institute of Technology in the West. Big name schools. SEM’s is proud when its students go to schools like these because they were the right schools for them, not because they are big name schools. SEM’s college counseling’s goal is to ensure that each student who graduates from SEM knows themselves well and can choose a college that is the right fit.
This year marks the first that Molly Greene ’98 is the sole college counselor. Mrs. Greene is responsible for 59 seniors and 42 juniors. As if applying to college was not difficult enough, imagine presiding over 101 different college processes. Other than writing all the recommendations Mrs. Greene said she does not mind the extra workload and feels that she is managing both classes effectively.
With the added responsibility came added freedom, which Mrs. Greene used to change the way the class of ’19 formally began thinking about college. January 12, the first group of juniors meet with Mrs. Greene in health class. She handed out eight profiles of former students. The students’ names were removed from the cases but they did contain test scores extra-curricular activities and an official transcript. The students were given the new SAT conversions so they could properly compare their own scores. Students then played a game to guess where the student was denied, waitlisted and accepted.
The goal of the game was to help the members of the class of 2019 to remain realistic. Brigid Navagh ’19 said she believes these cases helped her know what schools were realistic for her and that now she knows what her safety and reach schools are. Alivia LaRue’19 said the cases helped her but also made her nervous. “It makes things more nerve-racking because there were girls who got good grades but still got denied,” she said.
“Yes, SEM is a great school and our students are very smart, but there are a lot of great applicants from other schools and college is competitive,”
Mrs. Greene tries to keep students grounded. “Yes, SEM is a great school and our students are very smart, but there are a lot of great applicants from other schools and college is competitive,” she said. On the flip side, Mrs. Greene said that with the exercise some girls gained confidence in their abilities to be accepted into their dream school.
Currently, Juniors are meeting with Mrs. Greene individually. Each meeting is unique just as each college process is unique. These meetings allow Mrs. Greene a look into what each student has done. Some have started thinking about colleges and gone on visits, while others are still blank slates. Alivia said she is nervous about her meeting because she has no idea of where she wants to go. She has looked at local schools and Georgetown University when she went on the junior class trip to D.C.
Ciara Lambert ’19 said she has been on a few college tours because she wanted to get a head start but plans to visit most of her schools over the summer. Ciara expressed her gratitude for Mrs. Greene because when they met she was “very realistic very friendly and very flexible.” Katie Nebbia ’19 said she was excited about her meeting because she has been thinking about college for a few years.
Students’ next step is to fill out a questionnaire with very basic questions about ideal location, religious affiliation and ideal size. Students are also asked about possible majors, career hopes and extracurricular activities. Along with each student’s grades, these answers assist Mrs. Greene to curate a list of possible schools for each student.
Mrs. Greene’s list serves as a jumping off point. Mackenzie Beck ’18 said she got a lot of her schools off the list Mrs. Greene sent her last year and used it to start looking into schools. Suffolk University, Duquesne University and Ohio State University are all schools Mrs. Greene recommended to Mackenzie that she applied to. This list might have changed the course of Mackenzie’s life. Who knows?
Parents of SEM students go through a college process of their own. Parents and guardians of the class of 2019 formally begin theirs in the Colby Room on Wednesday, January 31 at 5:30 PM. or Thursday, February 1 at 7:30 AM.
This initial meeting with Mrs. Greene will include a PowerPoint of what parents should expect in the upcoming months. This includes everything from test prep to explaining different types of applications. There will be time for parents to ask questions and raise concerns. Parents are also strongly encouraged to peruse college websites because as Mrs. Greene said, “There are over 3,000 schools in the country a single person cannot possibly know every admission deadline for every school.”
Mrs. Greene’s biggest piece of advice to parents and students starting the college process is to “be open-minded, be realistic and listen to each other.” Mrs. Greene has seen many parents be closed off to their child leaving for college only for them to change their minds as the process continues and they get more comfortable with the thought of their child going away to college. Mrs. Greene also wants parents and students to be realistic about financing college. College is expensive. “That’s not a shock to most people. What is a shock to many students is the amount of money,” said Mrs. Greene. Open conversations about what schools are affordable are beneficial, but parents should also learn to recognize when “students need a breather from talking about college,” said Mrs. Greene.
The beginning of senior year is when the college process really kicks in. Colleges set up days to visit SEM. For seniors, the fall is a blur of SAT and ACT results college trips applications college essays interviews and many conversations with Mrs. Greene. Once all applications are submitted the rush calms and there is nothing to do but wait. Most applications are due before February. Right now, the class of 2018 is not-so-patiently waiting for financial packets and acceptance letters. But there’s this senior who preferred to remain anonymous who said: “I haven’t heard back and I don’t want to.”
While some students are checking mailboxes for replies a few are done waiting and have decided on a school: Tessa Covello-SUNY Fredonia, Katie Gibbons-University of Toronto, Charlotte Long-Indiana University Pennsylvania, Molly Doyle-Jacksonville University, Jacqueline Schanzlin-Laboratory Institute of Merchandising and Ellie Cleary-SUNY Potsdam.
For all those starting the college process in the upcoming years, Mackenzie said “good luck and save as much money as you can.”